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date: 14 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This essay explores the significance of the mutual imbrication of ekphrasis and sexual violence in Shakespeare’s poetry. Beginning with a discussion of Philomela’s substitution of a woven picture (the teasingly opaque ‘purpureas notas’) for an oral account of violence in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, I analyse Shakespeare’s revision of this foundational story in Titus Andronicus. Arguing that in Shakespeare’s work ekphrasis functions as a gendered site of contestation between image and word in which the feminine image is organized and contained by the masculine ‘noting’ of an artist figure, I consider how Shakespeare’s other extensive use of the Philomela story in Cymbeline clarifies this pattern. My final texts, The Rape of Lucrece and The Winter’s Tale, allow me to unpack more fully the function of ekphasis in drawing attention to the predication of poetic representation on the abjection of the female body.

Keywords: Ekphrasis, gender, Shakespeare, violence, representation, Ovid, enargeia

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